Collective Mourning and Robin Williams

Robin WilliamsWe’ve talked numerous times on this blog about how social media can bring the world together over a single event.

Whether it was a finale of a much loved TV show, a sporting event, or, the unfortunate death of a beloved public figure, there seems to be a want for people to connect (if it’s just by sharing the experience or actually talking about it) over these events.

The latest event like this that we’ve witnessed was with the sad news of Robin Williams passing on Monday night.

Within minutes of the news becoming public social networks were flooded with mentions and talk of the actor. There are few people in the world who could say that they didn’t enjoy at least one Robin Williams film, whether it was a children’s favourite like Aladdin, something that made everyone laugh like Good Morning Vietnam or even a dramatic portrayal such as Williams in Good Will Hunting. The man had entertained the entire world at some point or another and we all knew that and it brought us together over his passing.

But an interesting article in the New York Times on Tuesday asked the question of why we collectively mourn through social media? While there was no definitive answer to the question because it could be many reasons; from showing respect to just feeling the need to express yourself about something or someone that moved you, but part of the answer may be so people can say, I was there, I was part of that… (sorry to call it this, but for lack of a better word) event.

And many many people were part of this event.

A simple search on MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics platform, for mentions of Robin Williams or the most used hashtag around the talk of #RIPRobinWilliams shows just how many peoples’ lives he touched, when many had never actually met the man.

At the time of writing this (on Wednesday afternoon) there have been millions of mentions across social channels. We were able to find mentions in 29,914 blog posts, 66,700 online news articles, 14,548 forum postings and 7,199,489 tweets all since Monday night when the news broke.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary

In addition to those channels, we also found 14,151 videos that have mentioned the actor in their title or descriptions since Monday night.

Sysomos MAP - Video Activity Summary

On Tumblr, the number of mentions in the same time frame showed 3,240,930 postings of various sorts.

Sysomos MAP - Tumblr Activity Grid

And the #RIPRobinWilliams hashtag has even been used 383,690 on Instagram.

Sysomos MAP - Instagram Activity Summary

None of these are insignificant numbers.

After seeing these numbers it’s hard to call this anything but an event that brought the world together in a collective manner. But why?

We don’t have the answer and you may not either, but we want to know your opinion in the comments. Is the death of world renown person an “event”. Has it always been? Or has social media changed our idea of what an event is or can be?

Let us know below and let’s start a conversation about this.

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